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Hopes are realized--and luxury prevails.

In ancient Greece, there was a tale of the beauteous Pandora who was entrusted of an enormous box and told not to open it.

However, Pandora was overcome by curiosity and raised the lid to have one little peep inside. There, the gods had placed all the sorrows and horrors that existed and, in an instant, Pandora released them into the world. She quickly dropped the lid, but then heard a sweet little voice ask for freedom. It was Hope, who had been placed with the others as a counterbalance. Pandora released Hope as well.

It is said that when evil comes upon us, Hope follows in its footsteps, and points to a happier future.

In this new century that seems to have been besieged by all the other denizens of that box, I am very grateful that we have little Hope. I'm also very glad to be her namesake ... for it has most certainly been Hope (and some of my first name, too) always pointing to better times that has enabled us to get through the difficult and forge ahead.

If I were to be asked what the trend for this year will be, I'd say Hope--Hope realized, However, if asked on a more material level--that of retail and retail real estate--my answer would be big box discount and luxury, most certainly luxury.

At the end of last year, the global rebound was gathering momentum. This country signaled a strong cyclical upswing with a real Gross Domestic Product growth of 7.2% in the third quarter and 3.3% in the second.

While it reflected in part the tax cut package and increased defense spending, the real recovery seems to have been because of a strong upward trend in corporate profits and capital spending. This rebound has started to spread all over the world.

Economists expect global real GDP growth to be 3.7%, from an estimated 2.6% last year, led by this country.

All reports seem to be sending the same message: strong growth, improving profits, and rising inflation, which could cause an accelerating economy by adding an urgency to borrow money, buy inventory, conclude acquisitions, contract housing.

In the United States, consumer confidence was the strongest since July, 2002. Last January, unemployment was the lowest in 26 months, 5.6%.

The improving global economic outlook has begun to be reflected in luxury goods stocks, for economists feel that they, as a whole, could outperform most market indices. As the financial system overcomes inertia and picks up speed and more and more Hopes are realized, this market will continue to prosper.

New York City was one of the luxury capitals of the world; it is one of the luxury capitals of the world, even better than before. The luxury retail market is stronger than ever. The Luxury Walk of Fifth Avenue has achieved a profusion of wealth most likely surpassing that of the "good old days".

Louis Vuitton has taken over the fourth corner of jewels on Fifth and 57th Street. The store is the largest Vuitton in the world, the opening coincided with Louis Vuitton's 150th anniversary. There has been a flurry of flagships: In Trump Tower, Asprey expanded to three levels.

No longer just a purveyor of fine jewels and silver, it offers an entire luxury lifestyle including women's and men's ready-to-wear, accessories, eyewear, polo wear, and a gun room. Farther down the Avenue, DeBeers will takeover the old Louis Vuitton corner on 55th Street. The Bottega Veneta flagship will be in the intended Boucheron space between 54th and 55th Streets. The new Zara flagship will be on the Northeast corner of 54th Street. The Ermenegildo Zegna new and larger flagship will soon debut as well, between 52nd and 53rd Streets, incorporating their division, Agnona. Salvatore Ferragamo has expanded and opened its largest flagship ever, on the Northeast corner of 52nd Street, across from Cartier, allowing the men's and women's wear collections to be together.

Mexx opened at the Southwest corner of 52nd Street, on the block with H&M. Faconnable tripled the size of their store, when they moved to the Southwest corner of 51st Street and Fifth Avenue. LaCoste is on the corner of 49th Street, across from Saks. Sephora is returning to the Avenue, between 48th and 49th Streets, in the former Benetton location, next to American Girl Place, across from LaCoste.

Madison Avenue's Golden Mile has been burnished to a high gleam, as more and more luxury retailers open shop: Clarins, Ciribelli, Geox, Damiani, Barbour, Alessandro Dell' Acqua, Francesca Romano, Jimmy Choo to name a few.

One can find new luxury retail all over town: Baleneiaga in Chelsea, Georg Jensen in Soho, Christian Louboutin in the West Village. Barneys Co-Op on the Upper West Side; MoRon Brown on the Upper East Side. The fabulous Mandarin Oriental Hotel in the just-opened Time Warner Center. Cipriani on Times Square. The list goes on and on and this is just New York, the excitement is spreading to Europe and on to Asia.

The year has only begun, as more Hopes are realized and Luxury prevails, what an incredible time lies before us!
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Title Annotation:real estate trends
Author:Consolo, Faith Hope
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 7, 2004
Previous Article:Mack-Cali declares quarterly dividends.
Next Article:Fairfield and Westchester markets relatively stable.

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